Devon Wildlife Trust A spring delight, the Wood anemone grows in dappled shade in ancient woodlands. Traditional management, such as coppicing, can help such flowers by opening up the woodland floor to sunlight. The Wood anemone is a pretty spring flower of ancient woodlands, and is also planted in graveyards, parks and gardens. Its white flowers bloom between March and May, before the canopy becomes too dense, but its seeds are mostly infertile and it spreads slowly through the growth of its roots.

How to identify

An easily recognisable flower, the Wood anemone is a low-growing plant, with six to seven large, white or purple-streaked 'petals' (which are actually its sepals), surrounding a cluster of distinctive yellow anthers. Its leaves are deeply lobed and it has a thin, red stem. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The house martin is a common summer visitor to the UK, arriving in April and leaving in October. It builds mud nests, sometimes in small colonies, under ledges, on cliffs and, as their name suggests, under the eaves of houses. Both males and females help to build the nest, collecting mud from streams and ponds and building up layers with bill-sized pellets. House martins are commonly found in towns and villages, as well as in agricultural areas. They feed on flying insects and aphids.

How to identify

The house martin is glossy black above, completely white below, and has a white rump and a short, forked tail. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The swift is a fast-flying and distinctive bird with long, curved wings. Originally nesting on cliffs and in holes in trees, it now mainly nests in buildings, such as churches, and is particularly common in older parts of towns and cities. Swifts spend the winter in Africa, with the first birds usually returning to the UK in April, though most don't arrive until May.

They feast on small flying insects and other airborne arthropods, usually catching them high up in the sky. Insects collect in a special pouch at the back of the swift's throat, where they are bound together by saliva until they form a kind of pellet known as a bolus, which can be regurgitated and fed to chicks. A single bolus can contain over 300 insects, with some holding over 1,000.

How to identify

The swift is black all over, with a small, pale patch on its throat. Looking a bit like a boomerang when in the air, it is very sociable and can often be spotted in groups wheeling over roofs and calling to each other with high-pitched screams. It is larger than swallows and martins (which have white undersides) and, unlike them, does not perch on wires, buildings or trees. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The sand martin is a common summer visitor to the UK, arriving in March and leaving in October. It nests in colonies, digging burrows in steep, sandy cliffs, usually around water, and is commonly found on wetland sites. The tunnels it bores can be up to a metre in length! At a chamber at the end of the burrow, four or five eggs are laid on collected straw and feathers. Sand martins are sociable birds and will nest together in summer and gather to roost in large numbers in autumn; eventually they migrate to Africa to spend the winter.

How to identify

Our smallest swallow, the sand martin is brown above and white below, with a brown band across its breast and a short, forked tail. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The swallow, or 'barn swallow', is a common summer visitor, arriving in April and leaving in October. It builds mud and straw nests on ledges, often in farm buildings and outhouses, or under the eaves of houses. Swallows are widespread and common birds of farmland and open pasture near water. They are agile fliers, feeding on flying insects while on the wing. Before they migrate back to their wintering grounds in Africa, they can be seen gathering to roost in wetlands, particularly reedbeds.

How to identify

The swallow is a glossy, dark blue-black above and white below, with a dark red forehead and throat, and a black band across its chest. It has a very long, forked tail. Often spotted perching on wires in small numbers.

Devon Wildlife Trust A medium-sized, plump bird, the dipper is often seen sitting on a stone in a river or stream, bobbing up and down. It can be found around fast-flowing streams and rivers, mostly in upland areas, but also in South West England. It feeds on underwater invertebrates, such as stonefly and caddis fly larvae, by walking straight into, and completely under, the water to find them.

How to Identify

The dipper is a short-tailed, chocolate-brown bird, with a white throat and chest.

Devon Wildlife Trust You are likely to spot the smooth newt in your garden or local pond. It breeds in water in summer and spends the rest of the year in grassland and woodland, hibernating over winter.

Newts are amphibians, breeding in ponds during the spring and spending most of the rest of the year feeding on invertebrates in woodland, hedgerows, marshes and tussocky grassland. They hibernate underground, among tree roots and in old walls. The smooth newt is also known as the 'Common newt' and is the species you are most likely to find in your garden pond.

How to Identify

The smooth newt is grey-brown, with an orange belly and neat black spots all over. In the breeding season, males have a smooth crest running the full length of their body and tail. 

Devon Wildlife Trust Our only venomous snake, the shy adder can be spotted basking in the sunshine in woodland glades and on heathlands. An adder bite is a very rare occurrence, and can be painful, but is almost never fatal.

The adder is a relatively small, stocky snake that prefers woodland, heathland and moorland habitats. It hunts lizards and small mammals, as well as ground-nesting birds, such as skylark and meadow pipit. In spring, male adders perform a 'dance' during which they duel to fend off competition to mate. Females incubate the eggs internally, 'giving birth' to three to twenty live young. Adders hibernate from October, emerging in the first warm days of March, which is the easiest time of year to find them basking on a log or under a warm rock.

How to Identify

The adder is a greyish snake, with a dark and very distinct zig-zag pattern down its back, and a red eye. Males tend to be more silvery-grey in colour, while females are more light or reddish-brown. Black (melanistic) forms are sometimes spotted. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The yellow trumpets of daffodils brighten up the dullest spring day as they cluster together in gardens, on roadsides and in parks during March and April. But these are often the planted or escaped garden varieties. A real treat is spotting a Wild daffodil among the dappled shade of an ancient woodland, or pushing up through the grasses of a damp meadow. Once abundant and hand-picked for markets, this wildflower is now much rarer, having declined during the 19th century as a result of habitat loss. It can be seen in parts of south Devon, the Black Mountains in Wales, the Lake District in Cumbria, and along the Gloucestershire-Herefordshire border.

How to identify

The Wild daffodil has narrow, grey-green leaves and a familiar daffodil flower, but with pale yellow petals surrounding a darker yellow trumpet; this two-tone look is one way to tell them apart from their garden relatives. The Wild daffodil is also relatively short and forms clumps, carpeting the ground.  

Devon Wildlife Trust A hardy little plant, the Primrose can flower from as early as December in mild years, appearing all the way through the spring until May. It favours woodland clearings, hedgerows and grassland habitats, and sometimes even gardens. Primroses are the food plant of the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly, which is a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Since Victorian times, April 19th has been known as 'Primrose Day' in honour of the late Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli; Primroses, his favourite flowers, are placed at his statue in Westminster Abbey and his grave at Hughenden in Buckinghamshire.

How to identify

Primroses are low-growing plants with rough, tongue-like leaves that grow in a rosette. Their flowers are large and creamy, with deep yellow centres, and often appear clustered together. 

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